Saturday, December 22, 2007

No end of emergency

Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 December, 2007

Pakistan's President Musharraf has promised his people free and fair elections -- after ensuring that they can't be, writes Graham Usher in Islamabad

Click to view caption
Pakistani former prime minister Nawaz Sharif addressing a crowd of supporters

On 15 December Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf revoked the 42-day state of emergency he had imposed on his country. In a televised address, Pakistan's new "civilianised" leader promised "absolutely free and transparent" elections on 8 January 2008 and invited "any number of observers to monitor these elections". He said the emergency had had two objectives, both of which were now accomplished.

The first was to combat a Taliban-inspired insurgency, radiating from the Afghan-Pakistan tribal borderlands to more settled areas like Swat in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). "I can proudly say the back of the terrorists has been broken in Swat," said Musharraf. Second, the emergency had enabled the government to foil a "well-thought out conspiracy... by elements of the judiciary" to "destabilise" the country.

The "conspiracy" had been the Supreme Court's imminent decision to rule unconstitutional Musharraf's presidential election in October on the grounds that an army chief of staff, who Musharraf then was, could not again contest political office. Musharraf has since taken off his uniform. "I have saved the nation from crisis," he said.

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